Despite signing with the team as an undrafted free agent 18 months ago, Nikita Jevpalovs entered the San Jose Sharks organization with a decent amount of hype. The Sharks signed the Latvian winger in the midst of a 100 point season in the QMJHL.
Jevpalovs was not able to reach those same dizzying heights in his first professional season. He struggled offensively, scoring just 14 points in 60 AHL games. He even spent some time in the ECHL with the Allen Americans in an effort to regain confidence, and in the postseason as the Americans won the Kelly Cup following the Barracuda’s first round loss.
Following his call-up back to the Barracuda, Jevpalovs scored at a slightly higher rate (3 G, 3 A in 23 games) than in his first 37 (2 G, 6 A), but still not enough given his numbers in junior. Jevpalovs remains under contract for two more seasons, as the first year of his entry level contract rolled over an additional year after not playing with the Sharks or Barracuda in the first year of his deal. He isn’t quite facing a make-or-break season yet as a result, but given the amount of wingers ahead of him in the pecking order, the clock on his time in teal could be ticking.
Name: Nikita Jevpalovs
Age (as of 10/12/16): 22
2015-16 Team: San Jose Barracuda/Allen Americans
Where he’ll (probably) be next year: San Jose Barracuda
What we like: Stickhandling ability and prototypical size.
What to improve on: Acclimating to speed and size of the professional game.
In his first professional postseason game, Jevpalovs demonstrated the hands that made him an elite scorer in his final season in the Q, toe dragging a diving defender and burying a snap shot past Peter Budaj to tie game 1 of the Barracuda’s playoff opener against the Ontario Reign.